This post may be a bit unorganized and otherwise sloppy. I’m just working through some things in my own head, and this is basically to let me get them out of my head where I can examine them. I’m coming from reading Galatians chapter one, and before that simply talking with God about myself. This post will certainly err on the side of application – so be forewarned if you don’t want that.
Some of you may remember that last summer/fall I was into a time in my life when I was very worried about being true to myself. This was a good thing for me. However, I am coming to realize that I still crave the acceptance and approval of others. For instance, as I was thinking about typing this post I wondered if a certain person would read this and think that I had matured. Let me take a step back. That thought probably wasn’t bad in and of itself, but I think my strong desire for that to happen, to gain approval, probably isn’t the most healthy thing.
So, I was reading Galatians 1, and it occured to me that Paul is extremely concerned about making it clear that he craves no ones approval, and that he is not below any man when it comes to the Gospel. He minces no words in explaining that he seeks God’s approval alone. He isn’t below Peter. He doesn’t owe allegiance to the Jerusalem church, he got his revelation from God. Now, I do understand that we only have one side of the conversation. Obviously Paul was responding to someone’s critique of him, but nevertheless the passage is full of Paul saying he is no one’s but God’s.
Now back to me. As I thought about the importance of seeking only God’s approval I debated with myself where that line was drawn. As an example, I know some people who use “seeking only God’s approval” as an excuse to take no one’s counsel and simply do their own thing, claiming that they don’t care what man thinks. Well, as Proverbs so plainly states, counsel is a good thing. To go without counsel is foolish and eventually gets you into trouble…
As Lady Wisdom so eloquently puts it: “Because I have called, and you refused to listen – have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded – Because you ignored all of my counsel – and would have none of my reproof – I also will laugh at your calamity – I will mock when terror strikes you – when terror strikes you like a storm – and your calamity comes like a while wind – when distress and anguish come upon you – then they will call upon me, but I will not answer – they will seek me diligently, but will not find me – because they hated knowledge – and did not choose the fear of Adonai”
Wow! Strong words. So, I have trouble believing that Paul means that you should not seek the counsel of others. I must ask then, when does he mean? I think it is a subtle difference. If I go to Dr. Snyder for counsel, I am not basing my worth or self-confidence in the hands of whether or not he thinks my idea is good. My worth is not tied to it at all. I am simply seeking the wisdom that he has in relation to an idea I have, or a situation I am dealing with. Therefore, the difference may not even be in the words that I use to ask, it is something internal to myself. Why am I asking someone for advice or counsel? To hear them praise me? To gain their approval of me? Or to genuinely find what their opinion is of my idea or situation? I mean, if Mr. Seavey thinks that I have an idea for youth ministry that is stupid, it doesn’t me that I am stupid. Worth cannot come from other people’s thoughts on you, certainly not in ministry (yes, yes, I realize many of you already know that; rather you know it in your head – perhaps you have not yet internalized it as you (we all) one day will).
As I said, I think that the difference is subtle, but vitally important.